Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Romance Revisited -- With Kids!

Ten years ago, I went on a trip to Michigan with my then boyfriend to visit his family and see where he grew up.  We traveled to Mackinac Island and stayed at the Grand Hotel where he proposed in the Rosalind Carter suite.

My life changed so much in that moment.  I was already pushing middle age, and thought that marriage and kids were just not going to be for me.  I had begun to wrap my head around the fact that I'd "mother" all my students and that would be enough.  But in that moment when that ring went on my finger, I felt a sense of serenity, hope, and home that comes from knowing that you are truly loved, unconditionally, and that someone wants YOU to be the one to share life's biggest moments.  We held hands at dinner that night and contemplated our future.

Ahh new love--just engaged and looking kinda scared.
DG said that night, "Someday, we'll bring our kids here."  Swoon.  This was exactly what I wanted--to have a family to make memories with.  When we left the island, we swore that we'd return and show our kids the enchanting, horse-drawn, "somewhere in time" place that was the setting of one of the most memorable times in our lives.

So fast forward 10 years.  With twins.  It's like this:  Romantic Island + kids - 10 married-life years = a decidedly different experience.

BEFORE -- Romantic Dinner in the Grand Hotel Dining Room when we could dream about our future and gaze lovingly at each other in the beautiful surroundings.

AFTER -- Okay, we still got to do this one.  They have a Kid's Club at the Grand Hotel where they have a children's activity from 6 to 9 in the evening, allowing Mom and Dad to go to the dining room sans ones who will make them sticky.

Quite a bit older now, huh?  

BEFORE -- We took a leisurely bike ride the 8.2 miles around the island and took in the sites.  The island is home to several spectacular, Victorian mansions, known as summer "cottages" that were used by wealthy families in the late 1800s as summer homes away from the midwest.  The shore of the lake and the view of the Mackinac Bridge to the west are beautiful.  I looked out and saw Arch Rock and horse-drawn carriages, and other romantic couples gazing at each other from atop bikes that slowly meandered around the road.

AFTER -- Our kids have been practicing riding 2-wheelers since last summer in preparation for this bike ride.  And they were ready.  We set out at 9 am.  By 9:05, the whining had ensued.  "I'm hot, pedaling's hard, let's take a break."  When we got rolling again, there was no stopping them.  Gone was the scenery.  My eyes were glued to the kid in front of me who weaved back and forth across the road, barely missing on-coming traffic, which was sometimes a carriage pulled by a Clydesdale.  DG and I were constantly harping ahead of us, "Slow down! Stay to the right! Watch out for people! Let your sister be in front for a while!"

BEFORE --We visited the quaint downtown area of Mackinac Island and admired the work of local artisans.  Mostly paintings of the Grand Hotel or the bridge.  We carefully touched whatever we wanted and engaged gallery owners in conversations about the island's charms.

AFTER -- I saw every visit to an art gallery as an exercise in hovering--hovering to make sure the blown glass didn't get knocked over when T2 started practicing her dance moves; hovering to keep T1's grubby little hands from man-handling and smudging; hovering and herding them through the stores, like an Australian Shepherd.  I had to decide which tacky piece of Mackinac swag I was willing to pay $18 for--the hard, plastic horse with carmelly velvet glued to its body that T2 promptly christened "Goldie" or the caricature t-shirt that says, "Mackinac Island--Powered by Horse Poop!"  "But Mom," T1 says, "It's funny, get it?"

BEFORE -- Mackinac Island is known for its sweet shops, particularly fudge.  The fudge from the island is famous, and it's in a million shops all along the main boulevard.  We wandered in and out of each one, sampling "exotic" flavors like toffee peanut butter and raspberry dream.  We bought a pound, carefully wrapped it up and had a tiny taste each day of the trip.

AFTER -- The candy pushers stand in the front of each shop luring in unsuspecting kids with promises of candy beyond their wildest dreams.  The whole of downtown has a wafting odor of chocolate, with a little manure cloying for good measure.  The kids had fudge, salt-water taffy and ice cream all in the course of an hour.  Then we asked them to calm down and get dressed in their "fancy" clothes for dinner in the Grand Hotel, which requires its guests to dress formally in the lobby after 6 pm.  Jackets and ties for the gentleman and dresses for the ladies.  Trying to get kids to dress when they're hopped up on sugar is a feat like wrestling tigers--I kid you not!

BEFORE -- Ahh, after the 5-course meal, a long stroll through the lazy town at dusk is exactly what the romance doctor ordered with a tailor made sunset to solidify the deal.


So was it different coming back to Mackinac with the kids that we'd dreamed of 10 years before? Absolutely. Traveling with kids is hard.  Raising kids is hard.  Working is hard.  And at the end of the day, I get to have the beautiful vacation, and the home, and the career that I love.  I sometimes forget in the whirlwind that is my life to remember how lucky I am that I get to have all of this.  It's different, but light years better than what I had before.  And I wouldn't change a thing.


clueless but hopeful mama said...

Oh so lovely. Glad you guys had a great time (even with the tiger wrestling!).

And I LOVE the first picture of you guys. You do look a little terrified! HA!

Aging Mommy said...

What a lovely post and your ending words, oh so very true. How wonderful to go back to the place where you got engaged and your husband said you would one day take your children.

Have to also say you look absolutely terrified in the first picture!

Amy said...

You guys look even better ten years later! Sounds like an awesome vacation.

Lucy said...

Love the befores and afters. It's amazing how much life can change. Sometimes you feel like that person you were 10 years ago was a completely different person. And in some ways, it was!

GratefulTwinMom said...

We really do look like we don't know what we're about to embark on, huh?